I have a theory borne out by observation: when you want to do extraordinary things, you sometimes get extraordinary help. Example: I knew my last book was supposed to be called Main Street Vegan, saying right there in the title that it was for regular folks like the girl I was back in Kansas City when I went vegetarian, or the young mom I was in suburban Illinois when I took the vegan plunge way back in the ancient ’80s. But my publisher didn’t like “Main Street” and wanted a new title. Long story short: I ran into Michael Moore (yes, that Michael Moore) on the street, he thought I had a great title, and he convinced my editor to let Main Street Vegan proceed without a title change.
To my mind, that’s practically a miracle. But it was just the first one over here on Main Street, because once I knew I had my title, related ideas started cropping up. The Main Street Vegan radio show (Wednesday afternoons on www.unity.fm, and podcasted later on iTunes) grew out of this, as well as Main Street Vegan Productions (we have a feature film in the works about a cow who escapes from a slaughterhouse), and Main Street Vegan Academy (MSVA), a 5-day, in-person intensive leading to the certification of Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator (VLCE).
Here’s how MSVA works: You come to New York City. The first response to that information is often, “Gulp!” But I look at it this way: The vision for Main Street Vegan Academy is to offer not only top-notch information, but also a life-altering experience, an experience that calls for bringing your body as well as your intellect along. New York is Disneyland for vegans. We have vegan restaurants of every stripe, and successful, longstanding vegan businesses, such as Vaute Couture, MooShoes, ObsessiveCompulsive Cosmetics, Babycakes Bakery, HighVibe (raw food retailer), and more. Part of the MSVA curriculum is field trips to these places where students can learn from the proprietors, see firsthand what a thriving vegan business looks like, and, if they wish, do a little shopping.
The academic portion of the program is intense, but lots of fun. We cover:
- The plant-based basics: Marty Davey, MS, RD, does “Vegan Nutrition 101” and “Nutrition for the Life Cycle”
- Animal rights (Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of www.OurHenHouse.org have taught this segment, as has Eddie Garza of Mercy for Animals)
- Vegan beauty and fashion (Joshua Katcher of www.thediscerningbrute.com is a professor of sustainable fashion at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising; he’s also a faculty member at Main Street Vegan Academy)
- History of the vegetarian/vegan movement (with Rynn Berry, author of Food of the Gods and professor emeritus at The New School)
- And environmentalism and the vegan business with Michael Parrish DuDell, formerly with Ecorazzi.com and now president of his own consulting firm, Race & Vine.
Our primary emphasis, however, is helping our students transmit this information to individual clients and to groups. To that end, I teach such classes as “Working with the Overweight or Food-Addicted Client” (I myself have kept off over 60 pounds for nearly 30 years, and I’ve written about this in my book The Love-Powered Diet), “Public Speaking and Media Training,” and “The MEND Program,” an acronym-based proprietary program for coaching people to better health and more joy of life. Renowned vegan baker Fran Costigan (www.francostigan.com) teaches “The Art of the Food Demo.” In addition, a panel of MSVA graduates return to share information about precisely how to work with others in a coaching situation, setting up the business, and marketing your services. A typical course provides some 40 hours of instruction, in addition to field trips and meals.
And when someone – or something – special comes through town, we do our best to make that part of the MSVA curriculum. For example, when Stephanie Redcross and her inimitable Vegan Mainstream team do their Vegan Professional Bootcamp in Manhattan on August 24th, we’ve arranged for the students enrolled in our August class to attend as part of their MSVA training.
This is a very special, “boutique” experience. One graduate said, “Other than having my two children, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.” Each class is small – 12 to 14 students. We share many meals onsite (all food served is both vegan and gluten-free, and we accommodate students’ allergies and preferences), and because the program is morning-to-evening with an optional dinner out each night at one of NYC’s fabulous vegan restaurants, we get to know one another really well. This leads to long-term friendships and professional collaborative opportunities, underscored by our private Facebook page for alumni and bi-monthly Master Class conference calls for all graduates. This provides both continuing education and a chance to get acquainted with graduates from courses other than your own.
Our graduates include yoga teachers, an RN, an oral surgeon, a psychotherapist, a clergyperson, a couple of image consultants, personal trainers, a corporate trainer, holistic health counselors, teachers, office workers, students, stay-at-moms, – people from all walks of life. The age range has been early 20s to mid-60s, and we’ve had students from California, Montana, Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, and even Australia and Qatar, as well as from the Northeastern U.S.
MSVA is offered four times a year. We’re enrolling now for June, August, and November of 2013. Detailed information can be found at www.mainstreetvegan.net/academy. We ask that everyone who applies be vegan already since our training is to enable you to coach and teach others to adopt this lifestyle in all its aspects. You can use your MSVA Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator certification on its own, or add this certification to other training you’ve received or plan to receive (i.e., Vegan Mainstream, E-Cornell Plant-Based Nutrition certification, Hallelujah Acres Health Minister program, Institute for Integrative Nutrition, etc.): None of us can learn too much about this life-changing and life-saving way of being in the world.